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INSIDER MONDAY TEAM REPORT

By Bob Bonett
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
December 17th, 2007
Looks like we could see veteran QB Chad Pennington back leading the Jets for the rest of the season. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Looks like we could see veteran QB Chad Pennington back leading the Jets for the rest of the season. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Uh, oh; it’s back!

Gang Green has another quarterback controversy.

Questions were rampant during Monday’s press conference regarding the saga between Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington. Nobody really knew following the loss to the Patriots what the extent of Clemens’ injury was, how coach Eric Mangini felt Pennington performed in a backup role, and whether or not the Titans would be welcoming a Clemens-led or Pennington-led team to Tennessee.

What was discovered during the press conference was that the Jets’ quarterback of the past several weeks, Clemens, suffered a rib injury, not a shoulder injury.

Yet, other than that, typical Mangini fashion, nothing else is clear in New York.

Mangini said that the extent of Clemens’ injury is a “rib;” he avoided qualifying whether it was bruised, broken, or how severe the injury actually was. More than one source today confirmed that although Clemens' MRI was inconclusive, it's likely he has a hairline rib fracture.

From there, all eyes were on who would in fact be starting against the Titans. Would Clemens find himself back as starter despite lackluster performance after lackluster performance with the coaching staff holding out hope of tapping into the young Oregon product’s potential, or would the ship be Pennington’s to right with two games remaining.

A vote of confidence was given in neither direction.

In a curious move, Mangini seemingly left each signal-caller out to dry, saying that a decision would not be made until nearly “game time.” Instead of granting the supposed quarterback of the future some sort of confidence booster with a “if he’s healthy, he’ll start,” or a “Kellen is the starter” comment, Mangini avoided the issue.

The same could be said for Pennington, too. Despite the fact that the veteran failed to lead New York to any offensive touchdowns, statistically he has been much better than Clemens. Regardless, Mangini still would not deem Pennington the helmsman.

Instead of answers, as usual in a Mangini press conference, more questions were abound following the 30-minute media session. Instead of knowing that Clemens would have a shot to prove two more times he was the long term answer in New York, or being settled on the fact that Pennington’s play earned him two more starts with the Jets, even if he is a lame duck quarterback, Gang Green has a pair of backs that have not performed well enough to even earn some sort of backing from their head coach.

Brad Smith and the option offense, anyone?

INSIDER TIDBITS

What about LC?

Clemens is not the only prominent Jet nursing an injury. WR Laveranues Coles re-injured his nagging ankle injury in the infamous trainer’s table incident, and managed to appear in just one play in New York’s loss to the Patriots.

Mangini mentioned that Coles is another player that needs reevaluation from the medical staff this week before any determination is made on his playing status against Tennessee.

“LC wants to play and I appreciate that,” Mangini said. However, the coach was cautious, proceeding to admit that he will need to be reevaluated throughout the week, and improvements will need to be made if Coles is to see action against Tennessee next weekend.

Coles’ situation is particularly intriguing due to the fact that, with the Jets out of contention and their star wide receiver forced to play after a concussion and through ankle injuries, shutting down one of the NFL’s true gamers for the remainder of the season might need to be a legitimate option.

No. 87 has 55 receptions and 646 receiving yards on the year, his two fewest totals since 2001, his second season with New York.

Mangini proud of effort

Entering a game as the biggest underdogs in history is an arduous task for any franchise, let alone when it involves SpyGate and one of the biggest rivalries in sports. Thus, Mangini was not afraid to say that the way New York played against the 14-0 Patriots on Sunday were quite encouraging and showed heart.

“I was proud of the way the guys worked to execute the gameplan,” Mangini said.

Yet, while New York hung tough with the NFL’s top club, managing to hold one of the league’s golden boys to his worst statistical output in recent memory, the fact of the matter was that for the 11th time in 14 games, the Jets were on the losing end.

The ultimate reason? An inability to finish off drives and execute touchdowns.

“We weren’t able to capitalize the way we needed to in order to win the game,” Mangini said.

Next up for Gang Green

Coming up this Sunday for the Jets will be a match-up with the playoff-hopeful Tennessee Titans. Led by QB Vince Young and a stingy defense, Tennessee is sitting at 8-6 on the year, third in the AFC South. Tennessee is one game behind Cleveland for the final wild card berth, and needs a win coupled with a Browns loss to remain in playoff contention. Tennessee is coming off a convincing nine-point victory over the Chiefs in which Young completed 16 of 26 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

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